In the new film Hyde Park on Hudson (out in limited release this weekend), Bill Murray's Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his distant cousin, played by Laura Linney, get mixed up in some hanky panky. (Read: she gives him a handjob.) So how does a serious film critic explain that one of our great presidents engaged in a rather undecorous act? To be sure, they aren't very graceful about it. David Daley at Salon writes that the "NYT review of 'Hyde Park' sounds like horny teenager." Some go for puns ("patriotic duty"), some go for imagery, and some, well, they just don't really know what to say. Herein, a compendium:
Option No. 1: Euphemism all the way.
Lou Lemnick of the New York Post: "The camera pulls back behind a parked convertible in which the president has taken Daisy for a spin — just after FDR gently but firmly guides Daisy’s surprised but not unwilling hand into his lap so she can fulfill her patriotic duty."
Manohla Dargis of the New York Times: "The violins surge, the flowers bob, and, alas, so does the president."
Christy Lemire of the Associated Press: "But then there is one moment that's tonally off in which Daisy, um, pleasures the president in the front seat during one of those idyllic drives, and all that innocuously delightful goodwill gets tossed out the window."
Alan Scherstuhl of LA Weekly: "Instead, Hyde Park on Hudson quickly introduces us (and FDR) to the president's distant cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) and then races forward to a sudden hookup that takes a firm stance on the question of whether our polio-stricken 32nd president could take a firm stance."
Option No. 2: Drop all subtlety.
Bilge Ebiri at New York: "Speeding away with Daisy in his specially designed car, he cheerfully leads her into a lush flower field and — without breaking his optimistic, devil-may-care façade — gently makes her give him a handjob."
Nathan Rabin at the A.V. Club: "Hyde Park On Hudson is told from the perspective of a mousy distant cousin of Roosevelt’s, played by Laura Linney, who becomes his faithful companion and then his mistress after giving him what could very well be the most tastefully shot, artfully middlebrow handjob in film history."
Alison Wilmore at Movieline: "The camera retreats to a decorous distance, the breeze blows over the wildflowers, FDR's custom-built convertible begins a-rocking, and it takes a second to realize...why yes, FDR just got his spinster cousin to give him a handy."
No matter how they phrased it, we still feel uncomfortable.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.